August 8, Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Elijah was one of the great prophets of Israel. He challenged king Ahab for betraying the covenant and worshiping pagan gods. Ahab, driven on by his wife, Queen Jezebel, wants to retaliate against Elijah for his opposition. As the story picks up in our first reading, Elijah is running for his life with King Ahab in hot pursuit. Finally, Elijah falls down exhausted, in the desert. He’s ready to give up and just wants to die. But the angel of the Lord intervenes, gives Elijah some food so he can continue his journey. Elijah will make his way to the holy mountain where Moses received the stones of the covenant. There Elijah, too, will meet the Lord.
In the gospel, Jesus is preaching in the desert, having fed the crowd who followed him. Jesus speaks about the special food that he will give which is far more precious than the food God formerly gave to satisfy people’s hunger—food even more special than the manna that the ancient Jews received to support their journey to the promised land. For “This is the living bread,” Jesus tells them, which of course we identify with the Eucharist at Mass.
Our second reading reminds us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit can overcome all our sins and limitations. Empowered with those graces we are challenged to be “imitators of God”—a truly startling phrase that should remind us of the miracle God’s grace can work within us.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

August 1, Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

We are making our way through the sixth chapter of John’s gospel. This chapter begins with the story of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, which we read as last Sunday’s gospel. As you may recall, immediately after working the sign, Jesus withdrew from the crowd to avoid their misguided reaction to what he had done to feed them. As John says, Jesus “withdrew again to the mountain alone.”
Later that evening, the disciples embarked in a boat to cross the lake. Interestingly, almost every time the story of the multiplication is told in the gospels—and it is told six times in the gospels—some incident is recorded of the disciples getting in trouble on the lake. In John, Jesus simply appears to them walking on the lake just as they are about to land on the opposite shore.
Today’s gospel picks up the story with the events of the next day, when Jesus tries to explain to the unruly crowd how they should understand what they had just witnessed the day before.
John’s gospel story is filled with Old Testament allusions which Jesus uses to explain the sign of the multiplication of loaves, so that the people can understand. 
In this regard, to help us bring a proper perspective to the gospel, our first reading from the book of Exodus is perfectly chosen. It tells us how the Lord long ago provided manna for the people of Israel in the desert, just as in the gospel story Jesus himself is offering bread from heaven.
The psalm refrain serves to bring both readings together by pointing to their common theme: “The Lord gave them bread from heaven.”
The second reading repeats a favorite theme of St. Paul, putting aside the old self and taking on the new. This is what transpires in baptism and then repeatedly in our lives if we are open to the grace of conversion, the call to follow Christ that is always new in our hearts.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 1

Fifteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

In his day, public enemy number one was the Old Testament prophet, Amos. Uncompromising and contentious, Amos advocated for policies that frustrated the interests of the wealthy and powerful and promoted the interests of the poor and destitute. One way to get rid of Amos was to remind everyone that he was a foreigner and didn’t belong. He was a native of the south, the land of Judah, and so had no business intruding in the northern kingdom of Israel proper. “Get out of Town,” he’s told in no uncertain terms in our first reading.
Everyone who has ever confronted power on behalf of social justice has walked in the footsteps of Amos. In the gospel today Jesus sends his disciples out as prophets to proclaim the coming of the Kingdom. Amos had no resources or credentials to carry out his mission. What resources does Jesus pass on to his disciples to carry out their mission?
Our middle reading is a beautiful listing of all the blessings that fill the life of a Christian. We are reminded that we have “every spiritual blessing in the heavens.” It’s indeed a beautiful summary of the consolations that surround us through our share in the life of Christ.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 4

Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

This Sunday and next and the one after that, the first readings will be drawn from the books of prophets: Ezekiel, Amos and Jeremiah, in that order. Today, we hear the middle part of the story of God calling Ezekiel to be a prophet to his people. The first part of the story is a vivid chapter-long description of a vision of the LORD enthroned in glory above all creatures. In the third part, Ezekiel is given a sweet-tasting scroll to eat. This is a sign of the sweetness of God’s word and a promise that God will remain with Ezekiel, even when he is rejected by his own people, as today’s reading forewarns.
Thus does the first reading prepare us for what Jesus will encounter when he arrives in his hometown synagogue.
The second reading concludes the selections from Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians that the church has been reading over the last four Sundays. Nonetheless, Paul’s reflections on the power of Christ also prepare us for what Jesus experiences “in his native place,” as we shall hear in today’s reflection.
—BJ Brown

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 27

Thirteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Our first reading from the Book of Wisdom was chosen to introduce the gospel reading in which Jesus restores the daughter of Jairus to life. So our first reading is a reflection on the reality of death, but from a particular perspective. Since the Book of Wisdom was one of the last books of the Old Testament to be written—perhaps just fifty years before the birth of Christ, it builds on a well-developed theological tradition.
In the Book of Wisdom, death is not so much physical death that marks the end of natural life, but spiritual death that distances us from God. Sin and death are forces working together to crush the good. That’s the meaning behind the last line of the reading that they who belong in the company of the devil experience death. This discussion of death foreshadows what St. Paul will later say, that death is brought into the world as the partner of sin
In this light, the miracle Jesus performs in the gospel is a sign of how Jesus has overcome this power of death over us through his resurrection.
The second reading from St Paul’s correspondence with the Corinthian church was originally intended as what we would call today a “fundraising” letter. Paul is asking for financial support for the Jerusalem church which is on hard times because of a food shortage in the city. Note the motivation Paul appeals to: ca we are to model our generosity on the pattern that Jesus demonstrated in offering himself for our sake. Yet in deference to the needs of the prospective donors, Paul is not asking for the impossible, but just a response measured by prudence and generosity.
—Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 20

Twelfth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Today’s first reading is taken from the second-to-last section of the Book of Job, when the Lord speaks directly to Job. It is only a small part of what the Lord reminds Job—all in all, it takes three chapters to describe the Creator’s power—not only over the sea, but over every created thing.
The responsorial psalm is also a small part of a longer work. Taken from a hymn of thanksgiving from all those who the Lord has “redeemed from trouble,” this section describes those imperiled on the seas. Read or heard together, the two readings focus our attention on how Jesus exercises the very power of God in today’s gospel story, which takes place on the sea of Galilee.
The second reading, meanwhile, continues on an independent course through Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians. It is in many ways part of a love letter, as Paul documents his love for Jesus Christ and repeatedly tries to help the Corinthian community to share in that love.
—BJ Brown

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time, June 13

Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Ezekiel was an Old Testament prophet who loved to use extravagant imagery. In today’s first reading, Ezekiel gives us a picture of forest trees spouting all kinds of off shoots. In fact, he was alluding to the controversies and scandals that were going on in the local politics and foreign affairs of his day. But for us, we can relate this symbolism more broadly to what Jesus wants to say in today’s gospel. The way that trees sprout up and crops grow from seeds is a sign of how God’s grace works in the world: slowly, mysteriously, but powerfully and against all the obstacles that stand in the way. In the end, we trust that God’s cause will triumph, just as the farmer has to trust that the harvest will come in to feed his family.
The second reading is another one of those very personal comments from St. Paul concerning his courage and perseverance in the face of adversity. But Paul never boasts of his own experience to praise himself, but to offer himself as a source of encouragement to others. Here Paul sets his sight on his final standing before God, which gives him the courage to persevere in his ministry.

Walter Modrys SJ

This week’s readings can be found on the US Conference of Catholic Bishops’ website.